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Cloud application development is a necessity in a modern enterprise world. You can hardly find a company that has never used a cloud-based application or any of the SaaS products. Cloud applications are now dominating the market over desktop software for various reasons. The main advantage is they can be accessed at any time from anywhere with any device that has a web browser. Besides, when a company develops a cloud application, it automatically means that all users are working with the same version of the app. This greatly reduces the time and resources required for new features introduction, security updates, and synchronization.
We will look at the advantages of cloud application development later in the article. Now we’ll define the concept. A cloud application is software that is running on the remote server and accessed by the users via a web browser or local client, that serves as a user-interface for rendering the content that is processed in the cloud. Thus, a user’s device is used only to input the data, which is consequently sent to the server where it is processed and sent back to the user. Naturally, all the data is stored in the same cloud environment and can be accessed by all users that have permission.
Let’s name some reasons to use web-based solutions:
Quick implementation. In contrast to desktop applications, cloud apps are much easier to use as they don’t require any specific knowledge and skills from the users
Availability. Due to the great integration with various devices, you can access a cloud app anytime and from anywhere as long as you have a stable internet connection
Relatively easy maintenance. The thing is, in the case of cloud solutions, developers have to debug and update a single version in one environment that is shared for all users at the same time unlike, for example, desktop apps
Scalability and flexibility. Cloud solutions can provision their capacity in times of growing traffic trends, and lower it when the traffic descends. The use of cloud applications prevents enterprises from paying for highly capable servers even in off-peak times. Cloud services like AWS and Azure have PaaS solution for automated resources distribution so app owner won’t pay for the resources that are not used
As it was already mentioned, companies choose cloud application development to reduce costs, save time, and achieve high efficiency and high performance. Many IT industry giants launched their own PaaS (Platform as a Service) products to provide ISVs and enterprises with reliable and secure cloud hosting. The choice is wide and can address the needs of cloud application development at any scale. Moreover, all of them have their own advantages and killer features. The choice of the cloud services provider is as much important as a choice of a backend or frontend technology. Besides obvious things like the cost, it impacts how easily it will be for your DevOps to work with, how scalable the app will be, etc.
For example, historically, Azure better works with ASP.NET backend while AWS better works with Java EE and has better microservices support, such as Docker, which is essential for high-load Java web apps.
Here is the list of the most popular PaaS providers:
- Amazon Web Services (AWS)
- Oracle Cloud
- IBM Cloud
- Google Cloud Platform
This list may not seem very big as here are only the world-known giants. Listing less popular companies using the cloud would take an eternity. There are almost no companies left who haven’t preferred cloud services yet.
While speaking about cloud application development, it is necessary to discuss three main software delivery models:
- Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)
- Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS)
- Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)
SaaS solutions are for the end-users. It means that once a SaaS product is built and set up, it is completely ready for customers to use. They receive a ready-made product accessible from any device as long as the Internet connection is stable. and are excellent for collaborative work. Examples: Google Docs, Google Drive.
PaaS applications are mostly development environments based on various execution environments, OS, and databases. They require the application code to be deployed by the developers, and the vendor performs all the other processes. PaaS enables fast development of scalable applications with easy private or public deployment. PaaS products include Heroku, Force.com, MS Azure, AWS, etc.
In the case of IaaS, what’s required from the customer is the middleware and support, while the vendor is responsible for data storage, virtualization, networking, and servers. A significant weakness of this option is that the customer is restricted to the provider’s tools for cloud application development. IaaS is employed by Google Compute Engine, Amazon EC2, and others.
SDLC stands for Software Development Life Cycle, and it is an indispensable part of the development process no matter what kind of software you create and what platform you develop for. Once a dedicated development team gets a task, the SDLC process begins. It implies a set of stages. Waterfall, Iterative, Agile are SDLC methodologies. Each of them affects the way the operations are performed but regardless of the model, the sequence of stages mostly stays the same.
To sum up, SaaS is for the end-users, PaaS is for the developers, and IaaS is most often used by system administrators.
Cloud application development lifecycle includes:
Requirement Analysis. At this point, development costs are estimated, and the schedule is set. In case some organizational problems appear, they are settled with the customers at once.
Design. This phase is based on the designers’ work. UI/UX specialists examine future program’s functionality in order to build an interface that will cover all features. After the work is done, they present it as mockups or wireframes.
Development. This is the longest stage where almost all of the coding is done. Programmers have to put received design layouts into the working application. IT specialists usually divide all work into small stages and perform tasks due to the beforehand set priority.
Testing. This stage covers the Software Testing Life Cycle (STLC). As well as SDLC, it includes a set of phases that QA specialists perform to deliver the final product. Here application codes are sent to the QA engineers who use specific methods to test and debug the program to make it work in a proper way.
Deployment. Here a ready-made program is delivered to the end-user and set up in a user’s environment. The deployment includes release, installation, activation, and version tracking.
Maintenance. This phase comes only after the software is sold. It aims at fixing all problems that pop up after the application release.
From year to year, the technology stack for backend development doesn’t change that much so let’s see what languages and tools take the leading positions.
.NET is a hybrid framework developed by Microsoft. It gives programmers the opportunity to work with different languages, libraries, and tools for building scalable web, mobile, and desktop applications. Among the languages .NET supports, there are C#, Visual Basic, and F#. It also has its own package manager – NuGet, which contains more than 90000 packages. .NET development allows working with those cloud servers that already exist as well as creating and deploying your own. Thus, it is a powerful tool for cloud application development.
Java is a mature versatile multipurpose programming language created back in 1995. During these years, Java has earned the trust of IT specialists all over the world. Object-oriented class-based language can be implemented in the cloud, mobile, desktop, and web application development. It has tons of advantages such as well-defined specifications, expected behavior, which results in reduced development time, a huge number of tools and libraries, the fact that Java apps can be run on any device regardless of its underlying architecture, and many others. Java is suitable for enterprise-level projects that require difficult computations and data processing. However, despite all the advantages, Java developers are rather expensive, and employing this language for the startup is considered unseemly.
PHP is designed for creating software in a great variety of domains. Because its code is processed on the web server with a specific interpreter, it makes PHP an excellent choice for custom software development. It is most commonly employed for mid-sized projects or startups. It has a 5 million supportive community of developers, which will help you solve appearing problems on the stage of learning or later. By the way, quite clear documentation eases the learning process. The popularity of PHP results in a great number of potential specialists to hire, and for a relatively affordable price. As database integration is one of the key aspects of backend development, it makes PHP one of the best options as it connects to a wide range of databases such as MySQL, PostgreSQL, Redis, MongoDB, and others. In addition, hosting services for PHP are quite cheap because the components that a PHP app uses (MySQL database, HTTP server, etc.) are free.
Ruby on Rails is an application framework used for backend development. It targets simple development. It is relatively easy to master due to the English-like syntax and understandable documentation. This simplicity results in minimized development time. High readability leads to easier updates and maintenance, which, in turn, makes RoR development extremely cost-effective. In addition, Ruby on Rails has many testing frameworks cut out exactly for it, which makes testing faster and easier.
Choosing cloud development is reasonable, as it will result in fast, scalable, and secure applications with high performance. The fact that it’ll help save time and costs is also a key factor while deciding on an application type. The approach to development has changed for the better and became easier due to the innovative tools, technologies, and versatile SDLC methodologies. After you’ve decided on the technology stack, product features, team composition, and SDLC model, the cloud application development process begins.